This morning I hung out my freshly washed clothes to dry in the sharp, hot Mallorcan sun. After 3.5 years, I was struck by the realization that I actually love to hang my clothes out on the line. It’s something so simple and it feels primitive in a timeless way.
I didn’t grow up hanging my clothes out to dry. We had a washing machine and as an adult I had one too. But here and in many parts of Europe, this is normal.
I love folding my laundry and burying my nose in the fresh smell.
My decision to move to Mallorca was not an easy one. The San Francisco Bay Area had a strong pull. But my intense longing to slow down and simplify won out.
There have been tradeoffs, however. In order to reach out across the globe, my computer and I have developed a very intimate relationship. Connections with friends, family, colleagues are through Skype. I fly away to work and network. There are many, many things I miss about my life in California.
Yet, I continue to choose here and live in a way that is congruent with my vision. By my daily choices, I choose simplicity. Social connection is spontaneous. For human contact, a stroll to the plaza ensures a meet-up with friends and acquaintances. “Holas” to Mr. postman, Marga the banker, a wave to the butcher Joan as I pass his shop. Somedays I pop into the sporting goods store for a chat with Karen or Michelle. Inevitably, someone wants to sit down for a coffee. Drew called today to invite a few of us over for tapas and drinks tonight.
For food shopping and errands, I strap on my saddle bags and hop on my trusty steed–my bicycle–and I’m off to the market.! Some weeks, I may use my car just once.
I pick lemons, oranges, figs, grapes, and plums from the orchard to eat on the day.
Everyday I have to prioritize. It would be so easy to get swept off course. You see, we create our life with every little and big decision. As leaders of organizations and in life, we create the results we get. Everyone is thrown curve balls, and some more than others. How we respond is what makes all the difference.
Ask yourself, “Is my vision clear and do I keep it in front of me at all times?” and “Do the actions I take move me towards my vision?”
Action follows intention and attention. Many of us react to what is most immediate and in front of us. Time to step back and look inside. What are my priorities? What is my intention? What do I do with my time and does it reflect my intention and priorities?
My professional vision is to promote my brand globally and play on a larger stage; to bring my voice out in the world and to work with leaders to make a shift towards conscious leadership.
What’s your vision? Do you see yourself clearly in the picture? Do your words and actions demonstrate these priorities and do you offer clear direction to your organization and your team? Remember, they are watching your every move and taking cues from you.
The following is a blog written by Type 1: Perfectionist about his wife, Type 7: Enthusiast. People don’t often associate Type 1s with having a great sense of humor. Yet, this man is an award-winning copywriter and has been in the ad business for more years than he wishes to count. He and his wife are both in their mid-70s.
You can see Type 1 fully in his telling of the following tale. Backing Up Is Hard To Do.
My wife has a thorny problem with relations. The spatial ones. When she’s backing up a car, you never stand near it. Because wherever you’re standing, you’re in mortal danger. In the past few years, backing out of our garage, she has collided with four cars parked in our driveway and one innocently parked across from our house on the other side of the street.
It’s as if she were backing up an articulated big-rig vehicle. To go left, you turn the steering wheel right, right? My wife does this in our Honda CRV. In all of these accidents, we have been very fortunate that all she hit was metal. Metal can be repaired or replaced. I shudder to think of what else she could have hit. Like children or animals.
Her lack of spatial-relation skills may be hereditary. Because her sister just backed through a closed garage door. I can picture the medical profession recognizing this as a unique genetic condition: the “backing lacking syndrome.” But maybe it’s not hereditary. I mean, these accidents do require a willful disregard of the obvious.
So to be more empathetic – to see it from her point of view – I mentally reproduce the scene. I open the kitchen door leading to the garage. I press the remotely operated garage door. I walk towards the street between our two garaged cars.
Now I am outside the garage, facing the other car or cars hypothetically parked in the driveway. Next I turn and go to the left side of the CRV, open the driver’s door and get in. Obvious conclusion: My wife had to see any car parked in the driveway. And then in the next second forget about it (please don’t tell me it’s Alzheimer’s!) and swerve, backing into it! This could be the first case of Spatial Confusion complicated by Alzheimer’s? What will doctors call it? Dyslexic Dementia?
You see, Marina was diagnosed with stage four cancer six months ago. Within a week of her diagnosis, she went through intensive chemotherapy treatments only to find out much later that it was a shot in the dark … an experiment to see if it would work to slow down or stop the growth of her cancer.
Results came in like a punch in the stomach — the cancer had progressed in spite of the chemo.
As I understand it, there are three main determinants of disease; the first is a genetic predisposition, the next is environmental factors (what you eat, drink, what you’re exposed to) and the last is your beliefs, psychology, emotional state, stress.
We can have a genetic predisposition, but these other factors are what influence whether our genes are activated.
While attacking the disease with Western Medical protocols and change of diet, Marina chose to confront her cancer and face herself squarely. She decided to look within at how she may have contributed to bringing on her disease and what she could do to help herself heal.
Marina recounted her process with me, “I was faced with this question:”
‘What is the payoff for me? What do I get out of being ill?’
“I was so angry that the workshop leader suggested I (we) may actually benefit from being ill. When I felt my strong resistance, I knew there was something for me to explore so I went for it.”
As Marina began to write in her journal the pen swept over the paper with increasing velocity. Without effort, Marina managed to write two full pages dedicated to the various ways she derived benefit from being ill.
Key things from her list. Permission to say “no” to:
- request for help
- receiving help
- sign on for a project
- join a board
- extract herself from boards and other activities
- take leave from family and friends when she wants time alone
- take time for herself
- take time away from her computer and let emails sit in her inbox
- slow down and reduce her activity level (which has always been quite high)
In essence, to consider herself first. Marina smiled, “I have an excuse to take care of myself; to be fully ‘me’ without apology.”
“I’m the good person. My role is to give and to help. Therefore I don’t receive or ask for help. I pretend I don’t have needs, but secretly I hope you’ll see that I do. I take care of people. I can anticipate your needs. You need me. I expect to be appreciated. I must earn love and appreciation.”
This comes at the expense of their own self-regard and self-care. The belief is that:
If I please others; take care of others, if I am a giving and loving person I will be worthy of love.
As she started to take care of herself and to allow others to give to her, Marina’s true self began to shine through. She was surprised and delighted to share, “People are drawn to me. They want to be around me. They appreciate my authenticity.”
Opportunities for self-care and to receive help and support from others is ongoing. She laughs every time she realizes she’s stepped into her old ways, and then course corrects. Marina continues to notice how her pattern as the giver has played out throughout her life.
Despite her initial reluctance, friends have set up a bank account to receive donations for Marina to get care through a well-respected complementary medical clinic. She continues to courageously face her challenges to heal on all fronts: physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually.
Healing can take place when Type 2 is able to give freely without expectation, to receive from others (pride is not in the way) and to source self-love; when Type 2 declares “I am worthy of love because of who I be.”
What appeared as two inverted “v” silhouettes emerging in the foreground, turned out to be a furry-eared donkey.
As my friend Mar and I enjoyed an early evening hike, by chance I looked up just in time to catch him surface from behind the hill. There was Mr. Donkey set against the backdrop of the limestone mountains, lit up by the setting sun.
This was a precious moment I would have missed, had I not looked up in time. I delight in the unexpected and life is full of them … if we are open, awake and present.
How much of life passes us by when we forget to look up, and glance around instead of just focusing on what’s ahead?
These last several years, I have engaged in the joyful practice of relishing the moment. Instead of judging what is, wanting it to be different/people to be different, I have been graced with arriving at a place in my life where (when I am at my Wendy best), I accept and appreciate ‘what is.’
‘What is’ for me today? An ending that is simultaneously opening to a new beginning. Once again, I prepare to say good-bye and step into the unknown. On my last few walks through the village, I smile at a fisherman untangling his nets, knowing he will soon be a relic of the past, pause to caress the donkey’s face, smile inwardly as I glance around at the people I have come to know and love because of all of who they are …
There are so many sights and sounds and I just want to inhale them all; to burn them into my mind’s eye so I can recall this place I have called
home, at will. And yet, time is like grains of sand slipping through my fingers the tighter I try to hold on. These endings have become excruciatingly and exquisitely painful.
Since an early age, I’ve had a deeply felt sense for the temporal nature of life. The choices I have made along my journey have brought me face to face with a series of continual endings and beginnings, good-byes and hellos and the vast spaces in-between.
Some call me a nomad, but I didn’t set out to live that way. For those of you who have uprooted, you may have learned what I didn’t know until my roots were planted in new soil. Once you leave a place you cannot go back, at least not in the same way. You are different, people are different, the place has changed with time. That’s the nature of life–ever-changing.
What have I learned about beginnings and endings — about change? Here are 10 Valuable tips to help you ease your way into new beginnings.
- Beginnings come first. Have a vision for your life. Know what’s important to you; why you are making a change and what you’d like to be different as a result of your change in circumstance. Be clear. The end result is unlikely to match your vision exactly, but it may even be better. When you create with conscious intent, you have a much greater likelihood of materializing your vision
- Beginnings always require a leap of faith–nothing is certain
- Ask for help–it will come
- You don’t have to “make bad or wrong” your current circumstances in order to look forward to the next. Appreciate fully what you have; what was and what gifts this place, this person, this job provided
- Don’t rush through your ending to relieve the pain of letting go. Closing things down, readying for the change, saying good-bye is important. This process aids in the acceptance of change
- What loose ends do you need to tie up? Who or what do you need to make peace with? Do it. Don’t leave a trail of litter behind you because it will keep you from fully moving forward
- Throw 100% of your commitment (energy, focus, intent … ) behind the change. If you’re ambivalent, you’ll have a hard time materializing your vision
- New beginnings take time. You are a learner once again. Give yourself permission to feel awkward, to make mistakes, to feel incompetent in your new circumstances
- It will take awhile to find your new rhythm. But you will
- How do you want to be in this new beginning? Go forward with conscious intent. How do you want to show up — for yourself, others, in your new situation? You can choose to start anew; to let go of habits that don’t serve you and create new ones that do.
How have I been changed by my current circumstances?
In this place, I have learned to look up, pause, linger, deeply listen, lighten my load, experience the vastness of my heart and to accept …
… and that roosters crow all day and night, that people are more lovable because of their imperfections, that slowing down opens the senses, that there are benefits to nosy neighbors, that living a life at scale is possible and desirable, and so much more. I hope to carry these treasures with me like a turtle carries it’s home.
This poem helped me (and no doubt, countless others) be courageous in the letting go into new beginnings. May it gift you with the same.
For a New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never
think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting
until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness
growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety , And the gray
promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise
and relent, Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped
onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of
this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at
one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease
in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses
the world that awaits you.
~ John O’Donohue ~
I have neglected my blog of late because of my impending move and I imagine that settling into my new home will also be getting most of my attention. It will take me a little while to find my new rhythm, so please hang in there with me. I love to write and hope to have some good stuff to share coming soon!
In the meantime, what beginnings are taking form in you?
Add to my list: what have you learned about endings and beginnings?
When the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter landed in my inbox, I clicked on their link that took me to an excellent summary of the book: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. I have not yet read the book, however I found the review intriguing.
According to the review, the book breaks people out into three interaction or reciprocity styles (Givers, Takers and Matchers) and how each one leads to varying degrees of success. What grabbed my attention was this quote about givers:
… But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades … Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.
Givers are the type of people who use their own gifts and talents to “amplify the smarts and capabilities of others,” like Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers. In the workplace, givers share their ideas, knowledge, information, time and energy. They are neither doormats nor do they give for strategic purposes. I know many people for whom this is natural.
However, each one of us can be a giver. It’s a choice.
A little story. I met Sam (not his real name) less than a year ago by a chance encounter, and he is most definitely a giver who contributes to the lives of many, without strings. He shares his experience and hard-earned wisdom, generously. Through his mentoring, we have learned to expand our ability to see more broadly and with finer distinctions. He’s taught us a language to articulate what we see that provides clarity. As a result, we have become more skilled at our craft, and our clients and relations are beneficiaries.
Sam brings out my best and my desire to pay it forward. Meeting Sam has changed the course of my life.
We may never know the ripple effect our acts of generosity, kindness, caring, listening, support, and sharing of ourselves–have on another. When we give each other a hand up, it’s a win-win.
We feel good, we help someone else, others are happy for our success (according to the article, people tend to be happy for the success of givers), and it has a multiplying effect.
Can you remember that special adult who made a difference in your life? The teacher who believed in you and your talents? The boss who shared her earlier career mistakes so you would know you were not alone? The important stranger who said a kind word just when you most needed it?
The thing is, regardless of whether we are a giver, taker or matcher, what we say and do has a ripple-on effect.
What a profound responsibility that is.
With each action we take, each sentence we utter or write, each tweet, FB or G+ post, we make a difference to someone, somewhere.
Each of us has the possibility to forward and change the course of humanity for the better … We can leave a legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of others, well beyond the death of our physical form.
Recently, I watched an interview of a physician on one of the major news networks in the US, who shared the story of her near death experience. While unconscious, she went through a life review and saw the ripple-on effect of her words and deeds. She was able to witness at least 35 layers beyond the person immediately affected.
What if that’s true? It begs the question, “what are the ripples you intend to spread, even if you never know how what you do, matters?”
Please join the conversation. Who has given generously and made a difference in your life? What was the effect on you and others?
(For a terrific article that delves into the book, check out Kare Anderson’s review in Forbes)
Back in the day, my grandma touted the wonders of the book, Pycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. (1960). It stuck in my mind but I never got around to reading it. Maybe the timing wasn’t right. I know it shaped the way my grandma thought and how she led her life.
Grandma taught me to “never say can’t,” to sing while I walk, the value of simple things in life, that nutrition as your medicine cabinet, imbued in me her love and appreciation for nature, and that as a woman, I could be successful in business–she was.
I can still hear her giggle and feel her tenderly holding my face in her hands.
Grandma Frieda was ahead of her time in so many ways and she had a profound influence on the woman I have become. She made me believe anything was possible. My eyes well up with tears of gratitude for the many gifts she gave me.
Today, I was reminded of Grandma and Cybernetics by this BBC article Why Your Brain Loves to Get Feedback and it prompted me to finally order the book. She reached from the beyond and tapped me on the shoulder, and this time I wasn’t going to let Psycho-Cybernetics pass me by.
My curiosity and I went exploring and here’s what we found.
Cybernetics is a network of constant interactions and communications. Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) coined the term in 1948 from the Greek word for steersman. The term describes feedback — communication and control in systems—where a system obtains information on its progress, assesses the feedback, corrects its course and receives further feedback on the success of the transmission.
I followed up by doing a wee bit of research on the origins of Cybernetics (Macy Conferences). I sat in reverie and awe. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, two giants in the field Anthropology (my post grad degree) were key players in these conferences and the founding of cross-disciplinary field of cybernetics.
I then went to the source and read the introduction to Psycho-Cybernetics on Amazon, where it seems that Maltz applies cybernetics to human systems. From what I could tell, Maltz made a case for uncovering and reshaping our beliefs that undergird self-perception.
To simplify, we can act into new habits and patterns, using feedback to adjust our new behaviors. This sent chills down my spine. He published this book in 1960 and likely was writing it the year of my birth. In 2012 I published my own book and the premise was the same. We are not doomed to repeat the same patterns, over and over.
The final paragraph in the BBC article stirred me:
Feedback loops, on the other hand, beginning with the senses but extending out across time and many individuals, allow us to self-construct, letting us travel to places we don’t have the instructions for beforehand, and letting us build on the history of our actions. In this way humanity pulls itself up by its own bootstraps.
It was a powerful reminder of my commitment to be a mirror (feedback) for my clients for them to see they are much bigger than their self-definition, the roles they play and their stories; to help them deconstruct the beliefs that underlie their self-perception so they can step into their largess and intentionally create the life of their choosing.
We each have the power and possibility to re-craft our self-image, to become the full expression of who we are meant to be. Are you willing?
After I read Psycho-Cybernetics, I’ll write a follow-up post to share more about what I uncover.
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you know I commune with the natural world regularly for solace, inspiration, clarity, deeper contact with myself, to integrate experiences, to source meaning …
I meander and let my intuition do the walking. On a recent outing, I chose not to let my mind wander but to continue to bring it back to the here and now. What was before me was too spectacular, beautiful, inspiring to miss. More than that, I wanted now. I didn’t want to miss out on my life while I occupied my head.
Do you want to know a little secret? All we have is now.
We hardly experience here while wanting to be there. We are always on our way to something more, something better, someplace else.
Most of us are in the present-past or the present-future, but we rarely occupy the now. Why not?
How much of life do we miss while we ride the rails of our habituated patterns of thinking and feeling, over and over? How well do we know ourselves when we endlessly distract and stay stuck in these well worn feelings and thoughts?
These thoughts and feelings are not ours to have.
They simply are.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, I Choose Now became my mantra. Each time I found my mind wandering, I brought my attention back to what was right in front of me with the words, I Choose Now.
I let go of whatever thought or feeling tried to occupy me. With each repetition of the phrase I inhaled the beauty around me. I allowed the miracle that is our natural world to touch me. It was excruciating … and sublime.
This poem continues to inspire me as I journey through life. It’s meaning still unfolding.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
Rays of sunshine burst through clouds and sweep across citrus orchards and olive groves
Thousands of seagulls circle in tornado formation and squawk in revelry
Sunlight reflects off grey-green olive and blue-green carob trees leaves
Orbs of yellow and gold citrus framed against blue sky
Donkeys bay, roosters crow, lambs baaah, bird songs all echo across the valley
Ecstatic joy brings tears to my eyes – allow the joy. Don’t try to hold on, don’t shut it out.
And when you relax and accept here; when you stop beating up on yourself for not being someplace that you’re not, embrace where you are and keep your eye on where you’re going – that’s where the magic of life happens. That’s where “you happen” as you create yourself in every moment.
I choose now
Today’s post was originally published on the Lead Change Group blog in 2012.
A recent Forbes article: 31 Telltale Signs You Are A Horrible Boss got me thinking and it inspired this post. Many of us will recognize our former or present bosses described there and, worse yet, we may recognize ourselves!
I began to wonder what happens to someone when they become a boss?
Which led to … do we need to have bosses?
What practical function do they provide and do the negatives outweigh the benefits?
If you become a mom, dad, grandparent, policeman or policewoman and you step into that skin and/or uniform, you take on a role. That role is informed by your perception of what it means to be a mom. How you have experienced others in that role, and even wearing the uniform shifts your sense of self and effects how you play your role.
Recently, my friend Joan asked a friend of hers to become godfather to her son Daniel. She described a big shift in his behavior. He stepped up and took on the responsibility and the role. His subsequent relationship to my friend and her son changed noticeably.
When someone takes on the moniker “boss” he begins to embody his perception and definition of what it means to be a boss and takes on that role as he interprets it. “I am here to boss you around,” could be one interpretation, along with many others.
Think about how the word immediately sets up a power dynamic and a parent/child relationship.
Boss is synonymous with authority figure and the role presumes that people need to be told what to do, punishments and rewards should be meted out.
Remember the Stanford Prison experiment? It was a simulation where the prison guards became sadistic and the prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress. When people took on the roles they began to do, say, and feel things that were congruent with the roles they were playing. It got so bad, they had to end the experiment after six days.
So I continued to wonder, “What necessary functions does a boss serve and could those functions be served in another way?”
The most valuable things my former bosses did was to share information from above and across the organization; to set the vision and direction; to jointly set my goals and objectives; to advocate for me and my ideas; to make sure I got salary increases and bonuses; to approve vacation dates.
My former bosses also held me accountable to honor my agreements and commitments, to adhere to the organization’s ethics and standards and to be the best I could be.
One of the most unnecessary functions they performed was the annual performance review. By the time I got my review, the information was so stale, it grew mold and had to be tossed.
A comprehensive list of destructive boss behaviors can be found in the Forbes article. If the list weren’t so real and tragic, it would be funny.
Ideally, bosses are available to advise and give council, to sooth and encourage, to help build confidence, to motivate and inspire. Ideally a boss is someone who is wise and transmits that wisdom to help their direct reports develop, grow and thrive both personally and professionally.
If part of the problem is the title Boss / Manager, I continued to wonder, what alternative is there?
In Greek mythology, in his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus and of Odysseus’ palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.
When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus’ mother Penelope.
Because of Mentor’s relationship with Telemachus, and the disguised Athena’s encouragement and practical plans for dealing with dilemmas, the name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
Mentor suggests a type of relationship: I am here for you. I am here to help you develop and grow. I trust that you are fully capable of doing your job. I know you will rise to my high expectations of you. I will model the way by my words and behaviors. Come to me when you need advice, counseling, guidance.
A mentor sponsors, supports, nurtures and advises.
A mentor is a wise and trusted ‘counselor’ who passes on knowledge, experience and wisdom and who opens doors to opportunities that may otherwise be out of reach.
I am aware that there are certain leadership styles for which the role of mentor would be more challenging than for others. Take, for example, someone who is prone to have an autocratic style. 
However, I do believe that if the title and role was mentor, even someone with autocratic tendencies might start to adopt a different set of behaviors–perhaps with some coaching. Just by the change in title, it sets up a whole other set of expectations with associated behaviors.
What kind of organizational and individual changes can you imagine as a result of this?
Perhaps you’ve seen this or a similar model implemented?
Please comment, engage and share!
 You can review the nine Enneagram Styles to see the different approaches to leadership and how they might warm to and/or be challenged by the role.
It addresses some of the experiments around self-managed teams and takes a different but complimentary tack to my post.
Family, community, and culture exert a significant influence on and help shape the expression of our personality and consequently our Enneagram Type. The following is a personal account that sheds light on how this works.
After Stephan (not his real name) purchased my book and read it, he contacted me. I thought our exchange would be valuable for many of you. Travel with him as his story unfolds and you may see yourself in his tale, “A Case of Mistaken Identity.”
Question from Stephan: How much of Type is “from birth” and how much might be survival adaptations from early childhood? By the way, it is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Reply from Wendy: It’s both nature and nurture. Type is shaped by family, community, school, religion and culture. These influences can reinforce Type, stifle it, cause one to adapt to fit in or some combination thereof. The early childhood experiences I write about in each Type’s story, reflect how each Type experiences the world through their Type lens and filter.
Another Type could be exposed to the same treatment, events, etc., and have a different story to tell. This is why different children respond to the same family environment or caregivers in their own unique way. And this is why, we are not our stories and are much bigger than our stories.
At birth, each Type seems to emerge with a set of beliefs about the world. Now this is all theory, but it seems to fit with what I have experienced in my work, in my own personal life and reflects a lot of the literature.
I think we’ll learn more as our understanding of human nature evolves.
Reply from Stephan: When I first looked at the Enneagram a few years ago, Type 5 – the Detached Observer (“Researcher” according to that particular resource) appeared just about right.
This seemed obvious for the Ph.D in me. But yet, it didn’t. I’ve always known that my intellectual side was a limiting compensation and has never been the real me. The official story from me and those I inherited it from (like college professors) was that I was “the intellectual.”
I bought that story, but in truth was never happy with it. In high school and early college, I was an art major and had been offered a free ride to an art school. I was that good. I loved art, especially drawing, from as early an age as 4 or 5.
My earliest memories are being a quiet kid who just loved to draw. But then, in college every professor started telling me, “Anything less than a Ph.D is a serious waste of talent.” So I dropped the art major and went into the humanities, riding that adopted story all the way to a Ph.D. Yet even in the Ph.D program, I switched from historical studies to literary studies because I could talk about the art of the text.
Being a “unique” intellectual was always my calling card.
I was bored if it didn’t have an artistic slant. I knew then and there it was my old art major telling me he wouldn’t be happy unless he had a place in my evolving intellectual life. I was ready to drop the Ph.D until I could find a way to do something intellectual and at least a bit artsy.
Flash forward to present time. Lately, I’ve been doing speaker training and my coach put me through some brain tests. I always assumed I was left brain dominant.
But I was wrong – I’m right brain dominant and left-handed! (The same as Einstein, believe it or not.) It then all began to make sense!
My coach put it out there, “You are right brain dominant Stephan – make no mistake. Your left brain seeming dominance was probably some sort of survival adaptation.” Then more lights went on. She was right. It all was.
It was at that point that Kara (a friend who is familiar with the Enneagram) and I had a talk.
We agreed; I’m a 4 and my 5 is a “wing,” but a very strong wing that dominated the landscape for years because I had to escape my feelings and run to my mind to manage a Borderline mother. She could crush a 4 and his feelings, but never a 5 and his mind. It was definitely a survival strategy.
When I realized that, and I subsequently read your book, it all made sense. The cosmic tumblers began to click and I saw the gestalt of my life and the map of my deep inner experience with life.
I can see that I was born a Type 4 and yet, that 5 wing is a very strong survival adaptation that has often eclipsed my inner 4 essence (official stories can do that, unfortunately). I even know the event at age 5 that precipitated this whole shift – a very deep imprint.
While reading your book, I also uncovered my 3 wing. And I definitely run to the 2 people pleaser when under stress and when I’m in my native mode. I take the highway to Type 1 who runs seamlessly on ‘perfection’. I LOVE that mode.
It all began to make sense, like a puzzle falling into place.
So, as I read your book, I could not help but see how BOTH nature and childhood experience created how my Type evolved. And, of course, working with my clients tells me that imprints certainly can adjust the course of such things as a Type.
I am reclaiming that Type 4 in me these days, and I am using my 5 wing more as a tool, and less as a statement of who I am.
I am so much happier and your book helped clarify the growth process of rediscovering the ‘road map of me’ these past 6 years.
It put some things together for me in a most providential manner. Let’s just say, it was no mistake that the Universe lead me to your book at this time through my friend Kara. And for that, Wendy, I’m profoundly grateful.
I just wanted your answer since from my experience, it takes both nature and nurture/imprints to explain my experience with the Types.
I was never sold before on this stuff. I am now.
Today I went on a walk in nature. It was tough to pry myself away from the demands of work; from the incessant incoming emails, phone calls, social media … all begging for a response.
Forget proactive, I have become a reaction machine. Boing – incoming Facebook message. Bing – Gmail. Bong – Mac mail. Ting – Twitter … the mobile, the land line, Skype …
Are you a slave to the beeps, buzzes and whirs of the internet and mobile world?
With all of the incoming, I had no space. I had no room to think or just be. I needed time to step back and give myself an opportunity to process, mull over, and to make thoughtful decisions … I took “me time.”
I threw on my hiking clothes, left my “to do” list behind, set out on my hike and let my mind and body wander. What were the results?
Fabulous! The meanderings of my mind produced this:
- Three creative solutions for a pressing issue
- I realized that two actions needed to move to the top of my priority list
- I resolved a vexing problem
As a bonus, I felt exuberant and refreshed. All I did was allow nature to permeate my senses. I took in the beauty around me, felt the sun on my skin, listened to fresh rainwater gushing down the torrent, and had no agenda other than to get my body moving and to be outdoors.
The cool thing was, I wasn’t trying.
However, somewhere in the background of my mind, the processing was happening. And I realized, again, the importance of Me Time.
How does this work? Instead of intense focus, our brain moves into:
High alpha rhythm, which signals mental relaxation, a state of openness, of daydreaming and drifting, where we’re more receptive to new ideas. This sets the stage for the novel connections that occur
-Psychology Today, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: Insight and the Creative Brain
It’s not too late. If you must, bring your mobile with you but put it on “airplane mode” so it’s not transmitting. No calls. No emails.
Give yourself a real break. Take a U-Turn and prepare to be amazed by the results.
Others of us trust our analytical abilities. We like to figure things out first, weigh the pros and cons, optimize decisions, assess …
There are others who trust their heart. How do I feel about “x”? Do I like it/not like it? How will it affect me?
Many of us use some combination.
Where this all gets tricky is that especially under pressure, each of us has a default mode. We end up over-relying upon one of our centers of intelligence (head, heart, gut) and ignoring the others.
Default Mode: Over-reliance on Gut Intelligence
The gut center without the influence of the others, is impulsive. It reacts to stimuli. It is action oriented. In a situation where one’s personal safety is threatened or during emergencies, this is a good thing. Often, there is no time to weigh pros and cons, wonder about feelings, etc.
To ignore empathy and the impact of decisions on self and others is unwise. To dismiss the importance of planning and preparing, looking out for potential problems, seeking innovative solutions and then to act without peripheral and forward vision, yields less than an optimal decision.
Default Mode: Over-reliance on Head Intelligence
Over-relying upon the head center yields too much planning and preparing, too much focusing on what could go wrong, too much envisioning and innovative thinking … without action. The head center spins; spins ideas, plans, proposals, and can’t decide which way to go. Or tries to do it all. Which ideas should be implemented? Where to focus attention and energy?
If just the head is used there is little concern for others. The head is disconnected from passion and purpose. You can end up with a well thought-out decision, contingencies accounted for, and move closer to your vision, but it may lack any heart and meaning for you and others. People may experience head behavior as cold, impersonal and calculating.
Default Mode: Over-reliance on Heart Intelligence
This type of decision-making often manifests as concern about the impact on others. The focus is on the individual, on authentic expression, passion, and self-image. Often there’s over attention on how one will be seen by others, or whether one is in the right mood.
Those who over-rely on heart intelligence can appear as though they’ve lost sight of the business and are overly self-focused, self-involved or too involved in the lives of others. It is likely they’ll be stuck wanting, waiting, dreaming, longing, and hoping.
What’s the alternative? A better decision will result if all centers of intelligence have a seat at the table. An integrated response will serve you and others. With an integrated response your ability to bring others along with you is far greater.
How does this work?
Who’s taking the lead: head, heart or gut? Notice where you place your emphasis. Notice if you act on impulse, whether you try to figure things out or whether you let your feelings, moods, and self-image guide you. First notice.
Once you start to become aware of your most trusted center of intelligence and how that informs your choices, decisions and day-to-day interactions, you can begin to invite the other centers into the conversation.
Questions you could ask:
What if I had a little more compassion or empathy (for myself and others)? How will this affect others?
What if I were just a little more objective? What if I took the longer view? What can I see in my peripheral vision, in front of me, pot holes in the road, and do I have an alternate route?
What if I took some action now? What would I do first? What are my instincts telling me? What’s keeping me from acting on my instincts?
Let me know what you think, how you feel and what your instincts tell you!
Kent (Type 1 Perfectionist) was focused on putting some order to, and structure around our project as we ended our team meeting. Happy that we had someone who had a natural ability to take stuff and structure it, I commented, “Every team needs a Type 1.”
Kent reminded me that in my book I write that the Enneagram journey involves letting go of the roles we play, and in his case that meant he didn’t want to continue to be known as a perfectionist and take responsibility for being the one to put things in order. In jest, I told Kent to stop reading my book.
I’m writing about this episode because it’s important to remember not to confuse dropping your role with expressing your gift.
What do I mean by this?
NOT because you believe it’s expected of you.
NOT because you believe you’ll lose relationships if you don’t follow through on the unspoken expectations people may have of you.
As long as it’s something that you enjoy and it’s a conscious choice, then continue doing it, because it’s one of your gifts.
Remember, the roles we play are not who we are at essence. We often over-identify with our roles and think that’s who we are, yet we are far greater than the roles we play.
Don’t confuse your need to be the responsible, organized, orderly, structured, perfect one with the joyful expression of your gift.
When you let go of who you think you are (or aren’t), you open up the possibility of who you can become.
In a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, author Robin Rosenberg offers, “As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.” Rosenberg suggests that perhaps the best super power of all is empathy. I’d like to take it a few steps farther.
Perhaps it’s time to be your own hero.
“In his study of the “myth of the hero,” Joseph Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces he outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero’s journey.” (excerpt from the author page on Amazon)
Campbell saw the Hero’s Journey as a journey to becoming our authentic selves.
The hero’s journey is often described in literature and film, from Odysseus in the Iliad to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Siddhartha, Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy, and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
(I explore this and describe the steps in my book InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders)
As I came to discover on my own journey, The Enneagram is an invaluable map for our self-exploration. Many people arrive at the Enneagram, discover their Type and then take it no further. They have found a system that accurately describes their habitual behaviors and worldviews and a way to better understand their families, colleagues, friends.
Others take it further. They want to develop a broader range of strategies to relate to themselves and others; they want to play to their strengths and to stop repeating the same mistakes; to lessen the hold of compulsions and patterns.
But there is more.
Notice, the Enneagram symbol exists within a circle. All Types are subtly distinct from one another and are aspects of a whole, like facets of a sparkling diamond. The Enneagram can provide a map for the process of individuation as described by Carl Jung and depicted by the Hero’s Journey, to integrate all of the nine Enneagram Types within us.
We don’t need to look to others to fulfill our need for heroes. What if each of us were brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
The hero lies within.
As for those in leadership positions, we know that what gets us there isn’t necessarily what we need to excel at leading others. What is essential for effective leadership is how we show up. We have an opportunity and I suggest, a responsibility to take on our personal development; to bring unconscious habits and patterns to the light of day, drop what no longer serves us, try on new ways of being and responding and act from our authentic selves.
Joseph Campbell wrote:
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
The big question is, will you say “yes” to your adventure?”
In last’s weeks post, I wrote about the role of curiosity. Join me on my journey in this week’s post to see where curiosity led me as I explored the role and meaning of community. Learn what I discovered.
I grew up living in a village of 13,000 people and have had the good fortune to return to village life and experience it again, as if for the first time.
Community has been something elusive to me–both in concept and experience. We use words like network, tribe, community, and friends interchangeably. But what is it we’re really saying? I’ve turned this over and over in my mind.
It wasn’t until I returned to live in a village of 10,000 people that the fog lifted. I found what had been eluding me and what I longed for but didn’t know it until I experienced it.
If you are old enough and grew up in the US, you’ll remember TV shows like Petticoat Junction with Uncle Jo, Bobbi Jo, Betty Jo and Billy Jo, Green Acres, and Andy of Mayberry. These shows did their best to depict life in a village or small town with their quirky characters, ongoing relationships, the apparent intrusive nature of neighbors and shopkeepers and the gossip that goes on in daily village life. We laughed, we cried and we squirmed.
As I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of my village. My bags were packed for university two years in advance of my departure. I never felt like I fit in and I couldn’t wait to find my peeps. I was anxious to find my tribe although I didn’t have a way to name it at that time.
San Francisco was my post university destination and there, I could remain anonymous. No one was aware of my comings and goings. People didn’t drop in on one another either–I learned that very quickly. With this new life came a sense of isolation, although I didn’t understand it at the time. Why was I surrounded by friends yet felt alone?
In his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us Seth Godin describes a Tribe as “… a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, connected to an idea… A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate… One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.”
Notice this description is distinct from Tribe as it relates to Native American or Indigenous People’s which would be more relevant to how I think about and define community. I would amend that last sentence of Godin’s to include community, in terms of one of our “most power survival mechanisms.”
How is a tribe distinct from a community?
What I managed to create over the years, I now understand is my tribe and my tribe also intersects with my community. Since the explosion of social media my tribe extends globally. Before this, my tribe mostly extended to people I met along the way through work, professional affiliations, interest groups and those friendships that survived from my past based on some common interests, values, and/or shared experiences.
Tribe is not dependent upon geography.
What is community then? Community exists in a place.
Community is made up of the people we affiliate with regularly and most often, in person. People in a community rely upon one another. While the downside is that people in community are aware of our daily goings on, the upside is that we look out for one another.
My community knows when I am feeling unwell, when I am going out-of-town, when I am alone. They call and ask whether I need help moving, a ride to the airport, food or medicines because I am sick. They care.
My community consists of friends, neighbors, shopkeepers, landlords. For example, my former landlord helped me move into my new house. That is community.
Each member of my community is quirky (including me) and made up of people who I probably wouldn’t know otherwise. I have learned to care less about the gossip and that people know about my comings and goings, because more importantly, we care about and for one another.
In some ways, I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who regained consciousness in her home back in Kansas. I didn’t recognize that I had community all along. Nor did I realize the essence of it and how to fully show up in and for my community.
I no longer fear community, I treasure it. This is what I have rediscovered. This is precious. I had it in me all along … if only I knew that I just had to click my heels.
Have you found your tribe?
Have you created your community?
I’d love to engage with you around your experience of community and tribe. Please comment.
On your leadership and life journey, an essential travel companion is your curiosity.
When you invite curiosity to join you on your journey, your defenses drop, your inner critic subsides, your “I know” or “I should know” is no longer such a dominant voice. Your openness and availability to others and yourself grows and deepens. As it does, you feel drawn further and further along to what is around the next bend.
Questions you can ask yourself and others to invite curiosity are:
I wonder … “Why do I believe that?” “Is it true?” “Why did I do that?” “When did I stop doing that?” “How do other people experience me?” “What if I/we could … ?” “What do you think of that?” “Tell me more … ” “What is behind the question (being asked of me)?” “When did you notice?” “What can I/we learn from … ?” “How might I/we …?” “Is it possible that/to …?”
These are some of the undefended questions that curiosity asks.
Curiosity doesn’t judge, criticize, critique, or have answers. Curiosity is living the questions until the insights appear. Curiosity notices, is awake and aware. Curiosity takes an interest in what and who is around it and asks, “What can I learn from you?” Curiosity moves toward, not away from.
Curiosity is a bridge to the unknown.
Curiosity asks a question for clarification before reacting or responding—and we usually find out that we are reacting to something that we project onto the other person rather than what is really there.
Curiosity invites connection, ideas, innovation, intuition.
If you are a leader, curiosity is one of your most trusted allies. It will take you far.
Curiosity is interested in subtlety. It is the doorway to being present and available to yourself and for others. It will guide you to your insights, your deepest longings, and back to your true self.
This is an excerpt from my book: InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders and includes specific practices to bring more your curiosity your inner and outer conversations.